The Tenth Annual Cinéfranco Film Festival
Beur Blanc Rouge (Merguez or Baguette?)
Directed by Mahmoud Zemmouri
Distractingly plotless and egregiously lightweight, Beur Blanc Rouge follows several characters (including Yasmine Belmadi's Brahim and Karim Belkhadra's Mouloud) in the days leading up to a pivotal soccer match between France and Algeria. This match-up consequently forces the friends into an identity crisis; do they root for their adopted homeland of France, or Algeria, the country of their ancestors? Writer/director Mahmoud Zemmouri's refusal to explore the more interesting aspects of the premise - ie the struggles of Algerian immigrants to maintain their heritage while also attempting to blend into French society - quickly transforms Beur Blanc Rouge into an unusually tedious experience, although (to be fair) it seems entirely likely that the whole thing will have a more positive effect on viewers that are able to closely relate to the characters. That being said, Zemmouri's relentless emphasis on disastrously unfunny comedic bits - including a sequence in which a Muslim, fearing he'll be singled out because of his appearance, steps out of a customs line to shave his beard - is (to put it mildly) quite lamentable, and one ultimately can't help but wonder just what the point of all this is supposed to be.
Directed by Patrick Grandperret
Meurtrières is a stereotypically baffling and flat-out nonsensical French drama revolving around two woefully underdeveloped characters (Hande Kodja's Nina and Celine Sallette's Lizzy) and their aimless misadventures following an escape from a mental institution. Director Patrick Grandperret places the girls into one entirely uninteresting situation after another, with their aforementioned road trip - which essentially takes up two-thirds of the film's running time - bringing them into contact with a selection of laughably disagreeable men (most of whom, evidently, want nothing more than to rape the pair). Grandperret's decision to employ a distinctly (and unpleasantly) non-linear structure certainly doesn't help matters (particularly when he starts throwing in flashbacks within flashbacks), nor does the inclusion of a finale that's almost absurdly abrupt (the movie just ends without offering up even a shred of closure to the characters' plight). In the end, Meurtrières almost feels like a parody of an abstruse French film - which is a shame, really, as both Kodja and Sallette offer up respective performances that are undoubtedly better and more competent than the movie deserves.
Fauteuils d'orchestre (Orchestra Seats)
Directed by Daniele Thompson
Fauteuils d'orchestre offers up a series of mini-stories revolving around a cavalcade of characters, all of whom seem to have some sort of a connection to a local theater. Jessica (Cecile De France) has just landed a waitressing job at a cafe opposite said theater, where she encounters - among others - an aging soap star (Valerie Lemercier), a restless piano prodigy (Albert Dupontel), and a famous American director (Sydney Pollack). Director Daniele Thompson - along with co-screenwriter (and actor) Christopher Thompson - has infused Fauteuils d'orchestre with a breezy, light-hearted sensibility, ensuring that while the film may not be all that memorable, sitting through it never becomes quite the ordeal one might've expected. That being said, there's little doubt that some of these characters (and their respective stories) are far more interesting than others - with most of the stuff involving Jessica's misadventures an obvious highlight (De France's bubbly, personable performance certainly goes a long way towards cementing this feeling).